Intern Series: Making an Impact Across Two Summers - Meet Talía Ayala-Feliciangeli

Alex Wilson

#Culture#campusrecruiting

Talía Ayala-Feliciangeli is a rising senior at Georgia Tech who has spent this summer working remotely as a Product Design Intern. As a returning intern with two summers of remote work on the same team under her belt, Talía is leaving her internship with a unique set of experiences and lessons about #LifeatMongoDB. From the transparency about future visa sponsorship to one-on-one professional development that she’s received, Talía has spent these two summers impressed with the supportiveness of MongoDB’s program and her peers. In this interview, you’ll hear more about what’s made MongoDB a lasting fit.

Alex Wilson: Hey Talía! It’s so good to meet you! I want to start this final interview of the Intern Series with one of the questions that I’ve been asking everyone: what brought you to MongoDB?

Talía Ayala-Feliciangeli: During my first round of interviews with MongoDB, my recruiter asked me how I would feel about living in New York long term. I remember being super shocked that a recruiter was being so open about what an internship could turn into, especially when she started describing how MongoDB approaches the sponsorship process with employees who are from outside of the U.S. As an international student, it can be challenging to navigate the process of applying to jobs or internships. Unfortunately, not all companies are open to hiring individuals who may require sponsorship at any point in the future. The call with my recruiter was the first time I experienced a company being so open and honest regarding the immigration logistics that international students have to constantly think about, and it made me realize how supportive of a company MongoDB is. Both MongoDB and the specific position I had applied for seemed super interesting, but ultimately what made me decide to intern at MongoDB was the professional support, encouragement, and excitement I felt from the recruiter, the researchers I spoke to, and everyone else I had the chance to meet throughout the interview process!

AW: Awesome! It’s so meaningful to see these experiences of openness and encouragement echoed so strongly. What sort of work have you been doing?

TA: I work in the UX research team, which is a part of the larger Product Design team at MongoDB. The research team is currently growing, and it's exciting to get to learn different approaches to research through conversations with the new team members!

My favorite project so far has been the Atlas Billing Alerts project I'm currently working on. It’s my favorite because due to the nature of the project I’ve gotten the chance to understand how different teams across MongoDB collaborate to build the billing experience, and the participants I’ve spoken to have had very different needs than the user groups I’ve worked with in the past. The stakeholders for the project are closely involved and have provided me with valuable feedback at every step of the project,which has helped me hone my approach to research and have a better understanding of how to translate stakeholder needs into research goals! Plus, I got to meet people throughout different teams at MongoDB which I hadn’t spoken to previously,such as Technical Account Managers and Cloud Support Associates.

AW: I think it’s so interesting that besides being a return intern, you’ve also been able to return to the same team. How was your professional experience different the second time around?

TA: As a return intern, I had the unique experience of starting the summer already understanding how different teams and processes work at MongoDB. I felt that this knowledge translated into me feeling more confident about my work: onboarding was much quicker, I had context for the projects I was working on, and it was much easier for me to connect with stakeholders for my projects. At times, I felt like a full-time researcher rather than an intern!

Plus, having the same mentor both summers meant I got to meet her for coffee and hang out before the internship started this summer,which meant a lot.

AW: That’s so great. Having worked remotely both summers, I was wondering if you could speak to the extent that your team supported you virtually?

TA: At the start of the summer, my mentor and I had conversations about what I find harder to accomplish when working remotely. After identifying what those things were, we brainstormed ideas of how I could address them and how my mentor could support me with them. For example, I have a harder time staying focused when I’m working remotely from my apartment. My mentor and I decided I would create a detailed timeline breaking down what I needed to do for each of my projects, and we scheduled regular check-ins twice a week so I could share my progress and get her feedback.

In general, my team provided a lot of support within this remote work model by creating spaces for me to consistently ask for feedback on my projects or just chat about our approaches to research. In the past I was almost shy about asking for feedback, but my team setting aside time for us to chat about these things despite being remote really helped me grow!

AW: That’s definitely an enormous upside of such a collaborative company culture! Have you found that culture to be a positive fit?

TA: The culture at MongoDB is incredibly supportive, encouraging, and collaborative. My background is in psychology and research, and I was concerned with how a lack of a technical background could impact my work at MongoDB. Everyone I’ve reached out to has been super friendly and more than happy to share their knowledge (or just have a coffee)! I’ve also really appreciated how encouraging my team members are when it comes to me learning and exploring different interests, be it a side project with another intern, implementing new tools for research, or chatting about the research goals I have.

AW: As someone with a political science background, I can definitely understand the fear of coming into the tech industry without a very technical background, so it’s great to hear that you’ve also had such a positive experience tackling that learning curve—thank you for your willingness to share. Finally, I’d love to hear what your favorite thing about MongoDB has been!

TA: My favorite part is that I get to have ownership over my work: while my mentor has provided me with constant guidance and support, I’ve always felt that I am given the freedom and trust to decide how to go about my work, from structuring actionable research plans to conducting user studies. While it was intimidating at first, it has been an incredible learning opportunity to understand how to conduct UX research in an industry context!

Interested in interning at MongoDB? Our 2021/2022 Software Engineering Summer Internship for the US is now live and accepting applications for students